Author: Benjamin Harrell
The Virginia High School League (VHSL) Championships are a culmination of hard work, dedication, and anticipation. Victories are celebrated, tears are shed, and history is made.
On February 9th 1018, Samantha Weekes-Browne’s hard work paid off when she competed in her first Region 5B Swimming and Diving Championship, in the community that first nurtured her love for swimming.
Samantha came to SwimRVA to learn how to swim during her elementary school years; from there her love for swimming blossomed. SwimRVA aims to provide free swimming lessons to every 2nd grader in the Greater Richmond through its Learn-to-Swim program. Through this partnership, Samantha and other students from Ephesus Junior Academy first came to trust their abilities and thrive under the teachings at SwimRVA.
“I had been swimming [at SwimRVA] for three years,” Samantha said. “They started out with blowing bubbles, and [worked through] all the strokes, and I just felt good about it.”
When asked about what sparked her interest in competitive swimming, Samantha attributed the SwimRVA coaching staff with giving her the confidence. “I asked one of the coaches if I should swim [on a team] when I get older, and they said yes! I thought about it, because I felt like I did a really good job [training there].”
Reassurance turned to certainty, and Samantha joined the newly formed Varina High School Swim Team of Henrico.
Learning from Here
After joining her high school swim team as a freshman, Samantha has hit the pool sprinting, competing in the Regional championships in two events. She swam the 100m freestyle and 100m medley, and although she didn’t place, the experience has given her a solid foundation upon which to grow.
“Even though we came in last, I felt really good about it,” Samantha said. “This was my first time swimming competitively, [so] I’m learning from here.”
Samantha’s future athletic goals include placing in her current events and adding the 200m freestyle. She’s setting her sights on accomplishing those goals next season with the help of Head Coach Brooke Thompson.
Swimming is for Everybody
After working to gain access to swimming lessons, which has been historically lacking in East Henrico for several reasons, Samantha hopes to be an inspiration to others in her community.
Like Samantha, this is the first year that Varina High School was able to compete in VHSL swimming competitions. The swim team was started through parent advocacy, and it originally had only nine members. While small, the team was accepted as a VHSL Varsity team. While swimming isn’t a popular sport in the Varina High School community, the students warmly welcomed Samantha and her teammates. Samantha lists her fellow classmates as a main source of support and encouragement during her first year.
“Anybody can do it,” she said. “Swimming is for everybody.”
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The Mission of SwimRVA is to elevate swimming in the Richmond region making water safety and aquatic fitness more accessible to all. We promise to serve as a catalyst for regional aquatics and community-wide focus on water safety, health and fitness, sports tourism, and competitive aquatics. Donate today to help support our mission